Previous work has shown that environmental and clinical isolates of Aspergillus fumigatus represent a diverse population that occupies a variety of niches, has extensive genetic diversity, and exhibits virulence heterogeneity in a number of animal models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA). However, mechanisms explaining differences in virulence among A. fumigatus isolates remain enigmatic. Here, we report a significant difference in virulence of two common lab strains, CEA10 and AF293, in the murine triamcinolone immunosuppression model of IPA, in which we previously identified severe low oxygen microenvironments surrounding fungal lesions. Therefore, we hypothesize that the ability to thrive within these lesions of low oxygen promotes virulence of A. fumigatus in this model. To test this hypothesis, we performed in vitro fitness and in vivo virulence analyses in the triamcinolone murine model of IPA with 14 environmental and clinical isolates of A. fumigatus Among these isolates, we observed a strong correlation between fitness in low oxygen in vitro and virulence. In further support of our hypothesis, experimental evolution of AF293, a strain that exhibits reduced fitness in low oxygen and reduced virulence in the triamcinolone model of IPA, results in a strain (EVOL20) that has increased hypoxia fitness and a corresponding increase in virulence. Thus, the ability to thrive in low oxygen correlates with virulence of A. fumigatus isolates in the context of steroid-mediated murine
Kowalski, Caitlin H.; Beattie, Sarah R.; Fuller, Kevin K.; McGurk, Elizabeth A.; Tang, Yi-Wei; Hohl, Tobias; Obar, Joshua; and Cramer, Robert Jr., "Heterogeneity among Isolates Reveals that Fitness in Low Oxygen Correlates with Aspergillus fumigatus Virulence" (2016). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 1363.